Wednesday, 8 February 2012


There are those in the population who are can't help making patterns from any set of numbers on the page - and from time to time Fantasy Bob suffers from this affliction.  This often derided section of the community had a rare excitement at lunch on the fourth day of the recently completed Test in Dubai. The thought that England had not done too badly and were only 2 wickets down with 235 to get to pull off the win might well have stirred some pulses among the optimistic. But numerophiles will have noticed something far more interesting. For at that point the batsmen, Pietersen and Cook, both had career averages of 48.93 and the bowlers, Ajmal and Rehman, both had career averages of 26.93. The probability of this happening is in the region of the works of Shakespeare being typed by that proverbial squadron of monkeys. But it is fascinating - at least to Fantasy Bob.  Coincidence - or is it? Astrologers would also note that a full moon was on the rise.
Pietersen b Ajmal 

Having come together at this precise point in the space time continuum, the figures strayed apart again so that Pietersen having scored another 17 runs before being bowled by Ajmal ended up with his career average now at 48.69 and Cook who got another 8 runs now stands at 48.60.  Ajmal and Rehman also drifted apart. Ajmal took 3 for 51 in the final sessions and Rehman 1 for 56 to leave their averages on 26.70 and 27.37 respectively.

It is conceivable that these players will criss-cross again as their Test careers continue. What is the probability of them ending their careers with exactly the same average?  Had KP scored 13 fewer runs after lunch they would have remained on exactly the same average. He obviously had not considered this issue as he batted on after Cook's dismissal.  This is something the England management must get right in future - they need to take the coincidence out of these coincidences.  All coincidences should be carefully planned.

In the list of top 100 Test averages, there are several occasions of identical averages - more than FB expected.  Interestingly enough no England players are involved in any of the groupings, which should be an incentive to Cook and Pietersen.

There appear to be 6 groups of identical batting averages, but a closer examination finds this is a product of the rounding convention used.  Figures are reported to 2 decimal places, but have not been not rounded.  Where this convention is used, only one instance of identical averages is left.  And, numerophiles can go weak at the knees again, this involves 3 batsmen, Gary Kirsten, Misbah-ul-Haq and Justin Langer who all average 45.27.  Since Misbah is still playing - and after his triumphant victory over England may well add significantly to his 31 Tests it seems he is only temporarily parked.  So the trio is just one of those coincidences.

Bert Vogler
Forgetting the rounding up issue for the moment, Graeme Smith and AB deVilliers are both on 49.42 - so there may be a chance that they end up the same at the end of their careers.  something to watch - will they do better than Cook and Pietersen.  There is a strange symmetry between the 2 pairs.  But that may just be coincidence.

Similarly on the bowling front, there are only 3 pairs in the top 100. Again no English player is involved.  Once the figures are rounded however, there is only one pair left - J V Saunders and AE Vogler.  Both these bowlers average 22.73.  Saunders played 14 Tests for Australia between 1902 and 1908, taking 79  wickets and Vogler 15 Tests for S Africa between 1906  and 1911 taking 64 wickets.  Although their careers overlapped, they never played against each other in Tests.  However their moustaches remained the identical lengths throughout their careers. But that might just be coincidence.

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